Maria Ponomarenko was convicted for reporting on the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Leninsky court in Russia’s Altai region sentenced on Wednesday journalist and activist Maria Ponomarenko to six years in prison for spreading “fake news” about the actions of Vladimir Putin’s army during the siege of the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

The Siberian News Portal Reporter RusNews was arrested last April after criticizing the Russian bombing of the theater in this cityAlthough the Kremlin has denied responsibility for the bombing, which left hundreds dead.

The court found Ponomarenko, 45, guilty of violating the censorship law approved by the authorities after the start of the war, as reported by the media themselves. In addition, he was banned from doing his job for a period of five years.

“It would be enough to open the Constitution and read it to prove my innocence”said Ponomarenko, who also argued that “no totalitarian regime was so strong just before its own collapse”.

Ponomarenko was hospitalized last summer and underwent a psychiatric examination. Later, he attempted suicide to protest his detention. The journalist is among at least 150 people who have been tried in Russia under this “false news” law for having disseminated information on the movements of the army.

RusNews indicated in her Telegram account that Ponomarenko denies being a criminal, although the Investigative Committee of Russia in Altai reported that the journalist had published a series of photos and videos on the Internet containing “unreliable information about the actions of the Russian armed forces”.

Putin's regime imprisons journalists who report on the invasion of Ukraine or criticize the military actions of Russian troops there (Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/ via REUTERS)
Putin’s regime imprisons journalists who report on the invasion of Ukraine or criticize the military actions of Russian troops there (Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/ via REUTERS)

“On other occasions, she has been warned to set these actions aside and charged with committing administrative offences,” the committee said in a statement. His lawyer, Dmitry Chitovexplained in statements to the Amic news portal that “they are not satisfied” with the verdict since they had asked for their acquittal.

However, he said that will appeal the court decision and noted that “everyone knew a miracle wouldn’t happen”. “Perhaps other courts will correct this decision. There is hope that an appeal will continue to the Supreme Court,” he said.

During his last court hearing, Ponomarenko stressed that the Ukrainians “demanded an end to the violence”. “We live in the 21st century, not the Stone Age. The same things you support in neighboring countries that you ban in yours. It’s pure hypocrisy.”he assured then.

The NGO Amnesty International (AI) condemned the Russian court’s decision and noted that the sentence “shows how telling the truth and exposing the war in Russia has become a serious offense punishable by several years in prison”.

“The decision is another example of the injustice and cynicism of the authorities in Russia, where it is already commonplace. The authorities try to lock up anyone who doesn’t think like them and try to intimidate them into remaining silent,” he said in a statement.

Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, lamented that “Ponomarenko and all those imprisoned in Russia for their criticism of the invasion of Ukraine must be released immediately. “.

The journalist defended the use of the word “war” to refer to the invasion because “it was judged by the laws of military censorship”.

With information from Europa Press

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